includem Language Guide

Page 1

Getting our Language Right A Guide to Language for Service Delivery Teams January 2023


We thank The Children’s Society’s Appropriate Language in Relation to Child Exploitation, The National Autistic Society, The SAFE Project, The Promise – Independent Care Review and Each and Every Child for their suggestions, which have informed this guide.


Getting our Language Right

One of the things the Independent Care Review (2017) highlighted was that we need to change the way we speak and write about care. Consultation with hundreds of care experienced people led to a commitment to ensure ‘language must be easily understood, be positive and must not create or compound stigma’ (The Promise, p.87) and ‘simple, caring language must be used’ (p.69). Language determines how people view themselves and how they relate to their world. We all play a role in shaping culture for the people who experience services’ involvement in their lives.

Our Principles

Includem have developed this guide with help from some of the young people we support. It outlines some of the principles that we can use to guide our communication, highlights some words and phrases that we would like to stop using and why, and suggests some alternatives. We have included some quotations from the young people we support about how the language in this guide made them feel.

• Includem’s

This guide offers suggestions and is not definitive. It will evolve as we identify how our language affects people. Remaining conscious of the words that we use and the impact they have is key. This process often involves pausing and thinking when we speak or write, drawing our team’s attention to words, and breaking habits. Some words can be appropriate or inappropriate depending on the context; some young people we spoke to said that the word 'violent' was a misleading label for young people in distress, however, another young person who experienced domestic abuse was keen that 'violence' was labelled as such.

We should always assume children, young people and families could read what we write about them, and talking to people about how terms make them feel could be a helpful conversation to have. Individuals ultimately have the best knowledge of what language is unhelpful or supportive to them.

If you could use a simpler or more ordinary word, use it
Describe situations, don’t label
Our language should not suggest undue responsibility
Our language should not reinforce stigma or shame
language should help to normalise the experience of our service

If you could use a simpler or more ordinary word, use it

Includem shouldn’t use words with overly technical or medical associations, when this is unnecessary; young people and families are only likely to hear some of these terms through care experience.

One young person we spoke to asked that we stop using words which have “bad vibes, computery vibes”.

Unhelpful terms Alternatives


“This is such a weird word, I’d never heard of that word before I was in care”

Run away Placement

Ask the child how they describe where they live.

Use the name of the place or someone who they live with.

“I think that it should be up to the child how they describe how they live.”

Moving Placements


“I don’t like siblings. He’s my brother. My brother doesn’t know what sibling means. Say his name.”

Moving to a new house

A new start/chapter

Brothers and sisters (but sibling may be good non-gendered word).


Describe situations, don’t label

Some terms can be misused or overused, or they can be too vague to tell us much about a person or situation. It is important for us to consider the factors which underlie a situation or a person’s response; equally, it is not appropriate for us to construct our narrative for what people feel and why. Instead, we should be posing questions and exploring this with people. This links to emotional intelligence.

When describing situations, be mindful of whose perspective is being taken. It may be appropriate to explain your thinking or acknowledge your own perspective and feelings, e.g. ‘The young person’s behaviour caused me to feel unsafe’. This is better than trying to maintain an objective perspective, when this is not possible for you.

Unhelpful terms


This term suggests the emotional response was wrong.

Violent Acting Out Kicked/ Kicking Off

Challenging behaviour

Escalated (without context)

“Violence means lots. Say the behaviour.”


Describing context, behaviours and emotions e.g. Distressed response to [context]

Name what we observe, give context and consider why. This refocuses our attention on the experience of the person and what may have caused them to react in this way; this will not be apparent much of the time, and we can acknowledge this. By exploring this with the person, we can move away from understanding behaviour only as anger, but as a manifestation of different emotions. ‘Angry’ behaviour may signal a need.

Distressed response to [highlight context] which started as… and led to… e.g. ‘John threw a remote at the wall when his mum asked him to get ready for school. John has said he gets angry in the morning, it may be due to being worried about school. This is something we will explore with him.’

‘Mary was shouting and telling Jane to clean her bedroom. Jane responded to this by shouting and then hitting and punching her mum on the head’


The Anger Iceberg

Icebergs are large pieces of ice found floating in the open ocean. What you can see from the surface can be misleading. Most of the iceberg is hidden below the water.



This is how anger works. Often when we are angry, there are other emotions hidden under the surface.


distrustful overwhelmed

disgusted frustrated grumpy

grief stressed

disrespected disappointed uncomfortable regret lonely

guilt trauma

hurt offended

nervous trapped attacked


helpless rejected annoyed

embarrassed scared shame tricked


Source: Anger Iceberg, The Gottman Institute

Unhelpful terms Alternatives

They react to [some situations] by shouting and using swear words.

They used personal insults including ‘xyz’.

Verbally aggressive


This is a label, it might undermine the person’s agency and sense of possibility.

“I do not like the word vulnerable. I prefer ‘unsafe at points’.

e.g. ‘Jack suddenly started to shout close to my face and wave his arms. Includem are unsure why Jack reacted in this way, the team will explore different ways that we can approach this.’

Unsafe at points.

With vulnerabilities - This term acknowledges risk but allows that the person is more than the vulnerabilities that they may have.

Our language should not suggest undue responsibility

Some terms can mask an abusive or exploitative context, contributing to victim blaming. ‘Adultification’ can sometimes occur, when children and young people are described using terms that imply they are more grown up or have more responsibility than they do. These concerns can come down to a subtle but important emphasis. Some terms put undue responsibility on children, young people and families to trust us, we need to consider that they may have been let down before.

Unhelpful terms


The child/young person is being criminally exploited to distribute drugs.

Drug running/involved in a gang

Non engaging/engagement

Hard to Reach

Part of a friend group who have been doing illegal things such as...

We have not been able to engage yet.

Services have not yet found the best way to build relationships with them.

Support was offered that did not meet the needs of the young person at that time.

Includem needs to find a way to build trust. They are not in a place just now to seek support

“you could just say they’re not talking to you yet”

“Try a different way”


Our language should not reinforce stigma or shame

Some peoples’ experiences may have caused them to view their lives through a lens of shame, and we don’t want to reinforce these narratives. Some terms are heavily loaded with stigma; in our collective imagination we can have images and thoughts which come to mind when we use them. Some terms may frame things in relation to norms and standards which have not been made clear.

Unhelpful terms


Substance misuse

Unhelpful coping strategies

Addict Addiction Drug User

Offending, young offenders

This term has come to be associated with unhelpful images, it alienates the people described this way.


Problems related to using substances person who misuses substances

Some research has shown a preference for ‘person first’ language in relation to substance use, always trying to put the person first in sentences; their relationship to substances should not define them.

Young people in conflict with the law

This term reorients our thinking, to consider the young person’s relationship to organisations like the police, and how this may have been damaged.

There are risks to… There are a lack of protective factors

Children’s unit [Name the place] House


“Issue sounds like there is something wrong with you, and there’s not!”

Challenges, barriers, things you’re not happy about, difficult situation, something they want to change, goals they want to set

“I prefer ‘things not working’”


Not beyond help

Even framed positively, this term is alienating and is not empowering

Poverty (or how we describe it) Families not being able to make ends meet Breadline

These terms can create shame and create barriers to seeking assistance or sharing views. Some terms imply that the responsibility for difficulty lies with families.

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) Person has autism

Autism Spectrum Conditions (ASC) Autistic person/child

Some research has noted a preference for positive ‘identity first’ language in relation to autism, so autism is not ‘something you carry around in a bag’ rather it is a positive part of who you are.

We don’t give up We find the best way to build trust and support
to thrive/for healthy development Hardship Quality of life Access to basic resources/necessities Inequality Financial stress Budgeting challenges Unsustainable Families with low income
Unmet needs Having what all
Person with autism
terms Alternatives Case/Case Support/ Case allocation “A case is a bag. I am not a bag! Don’t say
case has been
person”. Children, young people and families I support [x] young people I am lead worker for
Matched team members/Team arrangement/ Team structure A Better Life planning A Better Life review Support planning Activity planning Phone calls, emails Discussions with other professionals Contacts Visits Phone calls Messages Contact Logs Daily Diary Notes Reflections Deployment This brings to mind the military, our roles are not combative Planning Planners Diaries
Includem’s language should help to normalise the experience of our service The language we use to characterise our work is important, and this includes the words we tend to use with our colleagues. Language shapes reality, and the way we think about our roles influences the way we think about the children, young people and families we support; this language filters through to the way we talk with them, too. Where there are formal procedures which have titles, we should use their proper names instead of acronyms. Unhelpful
handed over’ when
mean a

Focused Work

Moving On Moving On Review Moving On Evaluation



‘Frontline’ us a combative term. ‘Staff’ is a term which frames roles within a hierarchy.

Family Support Team Includem Support Team Intensive

and responsive As often as families need

This word is associated with clinical disorders and implies interference.

Support Elements of A Better Life


sustained changes The difference it has made Reasons for referral to includem Reasons for moving on from our support Unplanned

This word is often used to frame our support, however, if used inappropriately when talking with people it may reduce peoples’ experiences to ‘tick boxes’. “Missed/Cancelled/ Refused” Unannounced Visit Responsive Visit Flexible response



Exit Exit Reports
All our time should be focused in that it should be used in a supportive way, and this term is not appealing to anyone! Guided
Learning Prompting Learning Outcomes
Frontline Workers Staff
This word is associated with difficulty Ready
On programme Supported by
We do not want to set children, young people and families up to feel like they may ‘fail’, as success and failure often go hand in hand. Opportunities
changes, What makes you happy, Things are easier, Achievements,

Acronym Guide

Legal/Social Services

ATR: Alternative To Remand

CHS: Child Hearings Scotland

CCE: Child Criminal Exploitation

CP: Child Protection

CPO: Child Protection Order (Children’s Legislation)

CPO: Community Payback Order (Criminal Justice Legislation)

CSE: Child Sexual Exploitation

CSO: Compulsory Supervision Order

CTO: Compulsory Treatment Order (Mental Health Legislation)

FGDM: Family Group Decision Meeting

JII: Joint Investigative Interview

ICSO: Interim Compulsory Supervision Order

IRD: Initial Referral Discussion

LAAFH: Looked After Away From Home

LAC: Looked After Child

LAAC: Looked After and Accommodated Child

SCIM: Scottish Child Interview Model

TAC: Team Around the Child

VPD: Vulnerable Person Database

VRI: Visual Recorded Interview

YPOC: Young Person Of Concern


GIRFEC: Getting It Right For Every Child

SHANARRI(H): Safe, Healthy, Active, Nurtured, Achieving, Respected, Responsible, Included, (Hope)


CADS: Community Alcohol and Drug Service

CAMHS: Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services

CPN: Community Psychiatric Nurses

IFSS: Intensive Family Support Service

ISMS: Intensive Support & Monitoring Service

STAR: Siblings Reunited


ACES: Adverse Childhood Experiences

ARC: Anchor positive emotions, Reflect, Consistency

DDP: Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy

LEAPS: Listen, Empathise, Ask questions, Paraphrase, Summarise

PACE: Playfulness, Acceptance, Curiosity, Empathy

PALMS: Position, Attitude, Look & Listen, Make space, Stance

PSRM: Pro-Social Role Modelling

RAIN: Recognise feelings, Allow them, Investigate, Nurture

RRR: Regulation, Relate, Reason

SMART Goals: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time bound

STARR: Structuring, Teaching, Accounting, Reflecting, Relating

START:AV: Short-term Assessment of Risk & Treatability: Adolescent Version

AIM 3: Assessment Intervention and Moving on

ABL: A Better Life- Includem's practitioner toolkit


Turn static files into dynamic content formats.

Create a flipbook
Issuu converts static files into: digital portfolios, online yearbooks, online catalogs, digital photo albums and more. Sign up and create your flipbook.